Tecolote & Bernal, New Mexico On Old Route 66

South of Las Vegas, New Mexico and the tiny town of Romeroville (where Route 66 makes the turn westward), the next town is Tecolote.  The town itself is just off the frontage road on the north side, so watch for the turn.

After traveling north on US Hwy. 84, Old US 66 turns southwest and follows Interstate 25 all the way to Santa Fe.  Pieces of the old road alignment are still drivable.  At Romeroville, make your way onto the frontage road on the north side of the highway, and follow it as long as you can.

Like so many other New Mexico towns, Tecolote is built around an adobe church.  This one is a little different, since it’s painted white.

Tecolote is the Aztec Indian name for “owl”, which explains why there’s a hooter on the fire department door.

Drive past the church and the fire department, and continue on through the tiny town.  You’ll probably feel a bit out of place, but don’t let that stop you.

On the west end of town, several concrete bridge supports reveal where the original route of Old 66 once crossed Tecolote Creek.  You could take the rough dirt road down to the creek bed, but I wouldn’t advise it unless you’re driving a 4wd.

A new bridge allows the frontage road to cross the creek, just a few hundred yards south.  As you cross that bridge, be sure to look back to see another view of the old crossing.

Bernal, New Mexico

There’s so little to see in tiny Bernal, New Mexico, that I managed to capture it all in one picture.  On the right is the town’s church, and on the left is a small store.

Through this area, the frontage road only occasionally follows the original alignment of Route 66.  The original road was cut to pieces by I-25, leaving small fragments that are now inaccessible.  You’ll have to accept the fact that you can’t drive every square inch of the 1926 alignment, but the good news is, a nice long section of dirt 66 survives west of Bernal.  Head west from the church and store (passing by the I-25 exit) and the pavement soon runs out.  Here, the original road alignment runs along the railroad tracks, as Starvation Peak looms to the east.  My guide book warned that this section of the Route was “rough” and should be attempted by “route buffs only”.  I’m glad I wasn’t scared off by that warning, because the dirt road was in great condition, and easily drivable at 30 miles per hour or better.

I just have one question: why on earth is there a billboard out here?  It must have been there for a very, very long time.

Local legend says that early settlers took refuge from angry Indians on Starvation Peak, and rather than come down and face torture and death, they chose to starve.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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